Writing Tip: Pretend you are a dog like me
Today’s writing tip is inspired by my two-year-old niece. When I told her I was writing a blog, and asked her what I should tell you, she said, “Barren!” By that, she meant, “Write about your dog, Barren, Auntie Shea!” Great idea, little one. Writing from the dog's point of view has been done before and if you're interested in seeing it done well, you should check out The Art of Racing in the Rain and my review on the subject. But in the spirit of this advice, today we will be switching our writing point of view. During NaNoWriMo (see Writing Tips, Beating the NaNoWriMo wordcount and Be the editor you need), I wrote the sequel to my dystopian zombie novel and I switched points of view from the main character to the sea and the forest. Here are snippets of those chapters:
“The sea watched them go. Did it’s best to give them a proper journey east. But the sea does it what it does. Sometimes it felt too big to afford proper space. Sometimes she splashed them without meaning to. Sometimes the boat stopped because the wind stopped and she didn’t know it was her turn to propel them. Being the sea was a tiring, thankless job, but she did it to the best of her ability. And now these three tiny humans were going onward to confront an enemy that held the fate of the world in their hands. They were facing it blindly, the two sisters, alone in this perilous world. Their dad had not prepared them, though he knew a piece of the story. Their mom had not prepared them, though she thought she knew how the story would end. And the sea could not prepare them, though she desperately hoped their story would end well for these two sisters who had been torn apart and brought back together. So she let them sink their boat into her and guided them along the path from beach to beach. She still remembered the history of war that had gone on in her. She remembered the ache and the pain of Jess’ first crossing, and of Ellie’s too. She remembered who had been lost and what they had gained. And she knew of their hope now. Her seas were choppy with nerves, but she tried to calm the anxiety. The animals in her sea moved about oblivious to the worlds that were forming and collapsing above them. But she knew and so she held them carefully as best she could until she deposited them on the other shore. She watched them for as long as she could, until they disappeared into the city.”
“The forest watched them sitting and talking. She could feel the waves of distress floating off of them in waves as they discussed their tactics to lay siege on the building. Something was happening between the sisters. They had arrived two days ago, beaten and weary from travel. A long journey by the looks of it. The forest was particularly intrigued by the younger sister. There was a soft glow of pale yellow light surrounding her. She bristled her canopy and moved the tree trunks within her side to side to redirect the sunlight through her, but the glow remained untouched. The girl had the glow, there was no doubt about it. The older sister seemed either not to notice or not to care. The forest was fascinated. She had seen millennia of unfolding human events. She had lived through the pain of being cut down. She had expressed her wrath through floods and tearing out her roots. This recent event of human history, this virus of sorts, that did nothing to any living being except the humans, was the most interesting. She watched the wars start, the use of her lumber helping stoke the fires. She watched the terror envelope the masses and turn them into crazed violent mobs, and she saw the resulting band of community come together to fight for sanity and peace. She tried to understand their fear, but she was too old and had seen so many plagues and wars to find this one of any consequence. Until. The forest did not know she could be surprised, but the events that unfolded at the building’s doors were something she had never seen before.”
Take your story and see what switching the point of view does to animate your plot. Or, if you write poetry, consider switching to a different voice. For example, if you’re a poet who writes about love from the lover, try writing from the point of view of the bedsheets or the next-door neighbor. Using inanimate objects to tell a part of my protagonist’s story helped me dramatize action in the scenes that otherwise would not have been present. It invited readers into a part of the story yet unknown to the main character. This helped build intrigue and suspense. Switching points of view can help you unlock that tantalizing connection between reader and writer.